Automation in Business Operations During COVID-19
Automation, robotics, and artificial intelligence (AI) were on a gradual but continuous rise in a wave of digital transformation. Experts estimate that around half of existing jobs could soon be automated within a generation, but the pandemic has highlighted the need for COVID automation to deal with the new normal challenges.
Another survey conducted by International Data Corporation (IDC) revealed that the automation of content-centric workflows results in a 36% revenue increase, 30% cost reduction, 23% risk reduction, 40% error reduction, and 44% productivity increase.
This succinctly highlights the benefits of automation in business operations.
How has COVID-19 impacted business operations?
The need for unmanned work operations has become more evident during the COVID-19 pandemic. The health crisis fueled the surge in remote working by disrupting normal business operations and expediting digital transformation.
Business owners and employers were not prepared for an overnight shift to complete digital operations. Although automation and digital transformation practices are already partially implemented, the entire business community wasn’t ready for the abrupt shift. Remote work, ecommerce, online security, supply chain, systems, and business processes across industries were each uniquely subjected to crushing demands. Business continuity suddenly became everyone’s priority, and all other matters took a backseat.
Since the pandemic pushed legacy business processes beyond peak capacity, their inefficiencies and reliance on manual processing have been exposed. Here are some of the ways the pandemic has impacted business operations:
Higher Contingent of Remote Workers
Based on a survey done by Gallup, 35% of U.S. workers who have been working from home during the pandemic prefer to continue to do so. The other 30% would like to continue working remotely because of COVID-19 concerns. At the same time, the other 35% want to return to their office. Remote work is going to be the new normal, and even businesses are starting to adapt to it. Restaurants now focus on deliveries and online ordering while online shopping is experiencing a boom. Although there are people on-site processing the orders, most of the employees are still working from home.
Reduced Staff, Fewer Resources
One way businesses ensured continuity is by downsizing their staff. Instead of closing their businesses, they prefer to cut down on the number of employees, implementing skeletal staffing. Because of this, turnaround time has become longer, and productivity suffered. With fewer people handling the entire production process, productivity is significantly reduced.
Higher Demand as Economies Reopen
As people adjust to the new normal and the economy reopens, businesses are experiencing a surge in demand. With people spending more, businesses that previously scaled down do not have the manpower and capacity to handle the sudden increase in demand.
Increased Focus on Scalability
Because of fluctuating demands, businesses are now looking for strategies that would allow them to scale up or down according to the current business needs. Hiring and letting employees go is not practical. So, business owners are looking at improving their processes by implementing automation to cope with the changing customer demands. The pandemic made them rethink the role automation could play in the future of business.
Automation Solutions to Tackle COVID-19 Challenges
As the pandemic-related disruption continues, many businesses and companies are considering the potential for process automation. Removing manual steps, streamlining business processes, and modernizing workflows can improve even when it is done remotely.
One of the major setbacks faced by the automation industry pre-COVID was understanding its exact role in digital transformation. Due to this, organizations have no idea how to measure automation’s ROI and compare it with other competing initiatives. But the pandemic changed everything, it highlighted processes in need of exponential scale and how automation is the answer to these issues.
The opportunities for automation, specifically Robotic Process Automation (RPA), are practically unlimited. Before the pandemic, it is estimated that around 80% of manual business processes that could be automated were still unexplored. This means that only a fifth of these business processes has gotten a taste of automation.
In these times of ongoing disruption, businesses and organizations need to understand where automation fits in their portfolio while also exploring opportunities for innovation. Since resources are scarce and margins are tight, manual process automation can streamline workflow for low-staffed companies. It can also grant companies the flexibility to boost scalability, both up and down.
Contrary to popular belief, implementing RPA is not just a means to reduce headcount. It is an effective tool to complement the skills of the human workforce. Automation is about developing a system that helps automate manually intensive operations while incorporating human assistance to boost efficiency and productivity.
Another advantage of using RPA is it can be easily and quickly integrated into your existing systems at a minimal cost. This helps businesses remain operational in any circumstance, making it a future-proof and disruption-proof strategy.
For example, traditional organizations in customer-facing sectors, such as retail and banking, are often limited by inflexible mainframe legacy systems and suffer from manual and labor-intensive processes. They have the most to gain from the opportunities brought by RPA.
Post-COVID Automation/Digital Transformation
A study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of UiPath finds that almost 50% of businesses aim to increase RPA adoption to address new business and market pressures caused by the pandemic. However, these businesses also believe that a people-centric automation approach is crucial to success in the future of work.
Many organizations are planning to increase RPA spending over the next year to increase agility, diversity, and resilience in their supply chain operations. They also aim to address extraordinary cost pressures by automating back-office and operational tasks, including support for remote workforces.
With this, we can expect to see expedited digital transformations in various industries. The world has seen more digital transformation in the past year than in the preceding five years. And, this adoption rate is only going to increase post-COVID. Intelligent automation technologies, particularly RPA, are going to be the main driving force in the acceleration of this surge.
Although the workforce will not go back to what it was before COVID-19, the use of automation technology can make up for the staffing requirements to achieve similar outcomes. It is also crucial for business owners to provide automation reskilling and upskilling opportunities for their employees. This ensures that the employees have the skills needed to succeed in the future of work and maximize automation technology's advantages.
The Next Step
The pandemic has revealed how invaluable automation is in unlocking critical agility, resilience, and cost efficiencies for businesses in uncharted market conditions. After a year of workforce reduction and restructuring, it is high time to adopt an automation strategy to mitigate unanticipated risks caused by unpredictable labor market dynamics.
DocDigitizer can help you take that step forward towards automation and RPA. We help enterprises automate repetitive tasks, increasing productivity and improving response time when you most need it. Find out how easy it is to get your automated system up and running by talking to one of our experts.
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